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    #1

    To

    "When a man has nothing to say, the worst thing he can do is to say it memorably."

    Is "to" necessary? I don't think it is.

    Thanks.

  1. kfredson's Avatar

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    #2

    Re: To

    Quote Originally Posted by Jasmin165 View Post
    "When a man has nothing to say, the worst thing he can do is to say it memorably."

    Is "to" necessary? I don't think it is.

    Thanks.
    You certainly come up with interesting sentences!

    I do agree that "to" is unnecessary here. What can he do? He can say it memorably. "To" is, to my mind, grammatically incorrect. Would anyone other than a copy editor or English teacher notice? Probably not.

    Thanks for giving us challenging sentences to think through.

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    #3

    Re: To

    When a man has nothing to say, the worst thing he can do is to say it memorably.
    The nominal bare infinitive clause (without to) is severely limited in its function. It may be the subject complement or (rarely) subject in a pseudo-cleft sentence.
    What we can do is (to) say it memorably.
    Say it memorably is what we can do.

    It may also be the subject or subject complement of a variant of the pseudo-cleft sentence, where a noun-phrase of general reference replaces 'what':

    When a man has nothing to say, the worst thingWHAT he can do is [B](to) say it memorably.
    When a man has nothing to say, the worst thing he can do is [B](to) say it memorably.

    The to of the infinitive is obligatorily absent when the infinitive clause is subject in these constructions, but it is optionally present when the clause is subject complement.

    When a man has nothing to say, the worst thing he can do is to say it memorably.
    When a man has nothing to say, the worst thing he can do is say it memorably.
    The bare infinitive requires the substitute 'do' in the other subordinate clause.
    All he wants is to say it memorably.
    All he wants to do is (to) say it memorably.

    Quote Originally Posted by kfredson View Post
    "To" is, to my mind, grammatically incorrect..
    No it is not.
    BTW, "grammatically incorrect" sounds prescriptive. The aim of modern linguistics is to be descriptive. "Syntactically ill-formed" is what descriptivists say.

    Quote Originally Posted by kfredson View Post
    Thanks for giving us challenging sentences to think through.
    Challenging for the uninformed.
    Last edited by corum; 24-Apr-2010 at 07:29.

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    #4

    Re: To

    "When a man has nothing to say, the worst thing he can do is to say it memorably."
    IMO, 'to' is optional but it does make the saying sound better.

    The second clause could also be phrased : the worse thing he can do is saying it memorably.

    not a teacher

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    #5

    Re: To

    Just so you know, the quote stems from Calvin Trillin.

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    #6

    Re: To

    Quote Originally Posted by corum View Post
    The nominal bare infinitive clause (without to) is severely limited in its function. It may be the subject complement or (rarely) subject in a pseudo-cleft sentence.
    What we can do is (to) say it memorably.
    Say it memorably is what we can do.

    It may also be the subject or subject complement of a variant of the pseudo-cleft sentence, where a noun-phrase of general reference replaces 'what':

    When a man has nothing to say, the worst thingWHAT he can do is (to) say it memorably.
    [B]When a man has nothing to say, the worst thing he can do is (to) say it memorably.

    [B]The to of the infinitive is obligatorily absent when the infinitive clause is subject in these constructions, but it is optionally present when the clause is subject complement.



    The bare infinitive requires the substitute 'do' in the other subordinate clause.
    All he wants is to say it memorably.
    All he wants to do is (to) say it memorably.


    No it is not.
    BTW, "grammatically incorrect" sounds prescriptive. The aim of modern linguistics is to be descriptive. "Syntactically ill-formed" is what descriptivists say.



    Challenging for the uninformed.
    While I appreciate your feedback, I think there's no need for you to disparage other posters.

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    #7

    Re: To

    I think there is no need for you to read things into my message.

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    #8

    Exclamation Re: To

    Quote Originally Posted by Jasmin165 View Post
    Just so you know, the quote stems from Calvin Trillin.


    Yes, with 'to' the quote sounds better, though both are possible. There are structures where to-infinitive and the bare infinitive are both possible and in particular, expressions with do or did, such as what I've done or all I do can follow either pattern.
    • I hate shopping so what I've done is (to) order a new computer over the Internet.
    • All I do is (to) suggest that she should pay adequate attention to him.

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    #9

    Re: To

    Quote Originally Posted by corum View Post
    No it is not.
    BTW, "grammatically incorrect" sounds prescriptive. The aim of modern linguistics is to be descriptive. "Syntactically ill-formed" is what descriptivists say.
    There's nothing contradictory about being a descriptivist and saying that something is grammatically incorrect.
    I'm trying to think of an example of something that's grammatically incorrect but not syntactically ill-formed, or vice versa. Can you help?

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    #10

    Re: To

    Quote Originally Posted by corum View Post
    The nominal bare infinitive clause (without to) is severely limited in its function. It may be the subject complement or (rarely) subject in a pseudo-cleft sentence.
    What we can do is (to) say it memorably.
    Say it memorably is what we can do.

    It may also be the subject or subject complement of a variant of the pseudo-cleft sentence, where a noun-phrase of general reference replaces 'what':

    When a man has nothing to say, the worst thingWHAT he can do is [B](to) say it memorably.
    When a man has nothing to say, the worst thing he can do is [B](to) say it memorably.

    The to of the infinitive is obligatorily absent when the infinitive clause is subject in these constructions, but it is optionally present when the clause is subject complement.



    The bare infinitive requires the substitute 'do' in the other subordinate clause.
    All he wants is to say it memorably.
    All he wants to do is (to) say it memorably.


    No it is not.
    BTW, "grammatically incorrect" sounds prescriptive. The aim of modern linguistics is to be descriptive. "Syntactically ill-formed" is what descriptivists say.



    Challenging for the uninformed.
    And I am uniformed about so many things! I always appreciate it when you enlighten me.

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